During Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we have been speaking to a number of sports professionals and athletes. Here we spoke with PSN Advisory Board member, Richard Collinge, Head of Medical Services at West Ham United FC.
How are you able to implement mental health practices through your job?
We have an early warning system in place, which the medical and player care staff oversee, where we recognise the signs of mental health issues amongst both players and staff alike. The manager and coaching staff help to identify any potential player performance deficits that may be secondary to metal health issues. As with any mental health situation outside of elite sport, the individual needs to acknowledge and take ownership of the scenario for the correct management and referral pathway to be chosen.
Is there much emphasis placed on the mental health of players and staff?
Very much so. We must acknowledge that physical and mental health are intertwined. Elite sport is a demanding and high-pressure environment both on and off the pitch so it is important to primarily arm people with the tools to assist them in their duties. Beyond this, early recognition of mental health issues is essential to signpost to the relevant referral channel.
How often do you take the time to take care of your own mental health?
It is important in any walk of life that an individual has an outlet to facilitate optimal mental, and physical, health. This may be talking and off-loading to a friend or partner, cardiovascular exercise or strategies such as yoga or mindfulness. I attempt to reflect and refresh my mental health at least once or twice daily.
What do you do to improve your mental health?
I exercise daily for upwards of 30 minutes each morning which helps me to clear my head space in preparation for the day ahead. Reflection and talking to family, friends and colleagues also helps me to digest any potential mental health issues.
How has lockdown impacted you personally?
It has been the most challenging part of my 20 year professional career but I believe that, in amongst all of the difficulties of the past 12 months, it has allowed me to find a more streamlined way of working and an improved work life balance.
What do you miss most about your ‘normal’ working environment?
Working in PPE has been a challenge, as has the twice weekly PCR COVID-19 swab tests, so to return to a work life without these additional challenges will be refreshing.
What are you looking forward to most about post-lockdown?
Essentially, the freedom to socialise with family and friends again and travel without restrictions.
As an organisation, what has West Ham United done to support mental health?
Before COVID-19 arrived, the club were already embarking upon in-house training courses for so called “mental health first-aiders” to assist in sign posting for mental health issues. Players have education courses and access to materials to assist them on and off the field of play. In addition, we have referral pathways in place for additional support as and when it is needed.
To find out more about the services Premier Sports Network and Beder provide to help promote positive mental health across the world of sport, please email firstname.lastname@example.org